You'll need a combination of creative and business skills, as well as the ability to inspire and motivate a team, to be successful as a television, film or video producer
As a television, film or video producer, you'll oversee all elements of a production from conception through to completion, and may also be involved in the marketing and distribution process.
With ultimate responsibility for the success of a finished film, TV programme or video, you'll work closely with directors and other production staff, either in a studio or on location, to ensure a creative and stable working environment for everyone involved in the project.
You'll also secure and arrange funding and keep the production within the allocated budget.
As a television/film/video producer, you'll need to:
- read, research and assess ideas and finished scripts
- secure the finance for a new production
- commission writers or secure the rights to novels, plays or screenplays
- hire key staff, including a director and a crew to shoot programmes, films or videos
- pull together all the strands of creative and practical talent involved in the project to create a team
- liaise and discuss projects with financial backers - projects can range from a small, corporate video costing £500, to a multimillion-pound-budget Hollywood feature film
- control the production's budget and allocate resources
- organise shooting schedules - dependent on the type of producer role and availability of support staff
- hold regular meetings with the director to discuss characters and scenes
- act as a sounding board for the director
- troubleshoot problems that arise during production
- ensure compliance with relevant regulations, codes of practice and health and safety laws
- supervise the progress of the project from production through to post-production
- deliver the finished production on time and to budget.
Although you may be involved in all areas of the project, including pre-production, production, post-production and marketing, you may delegate some responsibilities to an associate or line producer.
- Starting salaries for assistant producers may range from around £18,000 to £25,000.
- With experience, salaries can reach £40,000 to £55,000.
- Departmental heads can earn £60,000 to £80,000, plus benefits.
Fees for freelance producers vary considerably, depending on experience and whether you work on TV factuals or dramas, or on feature films. Salaries will also differ depending on the size of the company and the size and scale of the project. For advice on pay guidelines for freelancers, see the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU).
Although the financial rewards can be good, in excess of £1,000 a week for experienced producers, many jobs are offered on a self-employed or freelance-contract basis so there can be a lack of security that comes with a regular salary.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Work involves regular unsocial hours at weekends and in the evenings. Long hours and time spent in meetings or on location is the norm.
Career breaks may create difficulties because of the competitive nature of the industry and the need to network and keep up to date with industry changes.
What to expect
- Producers may spend a lot of time in the office or may be based in a studio or on location. Although much of the work tends to take place in large cities in the UK, location work can be anywhere in the country or abroad.
- Self-employment and freelance work are common and work is frequently offered on a contract basis. The freelance nature of the work may cause some financial insecurity. See the ScreenSkills Freelance Toolkit for an introduction to freelancing in the screen industries.
- You'll work closely with a team that includes directors, screenwriters, actors and the production team.
- You need to be highly motivated and able to withstand pressure as the job can be very challenging.
- Flexibility and mobility are extremely important, as is the ability to handle a high level of financial responsibility.
Although this area of work is open to all graduates, the following subjects at degree or HND level may increase your chances:
- communication and media studies
- film studies/filmmaking/film production
- information technology
- media production and broadcast production
- television production/film and television production.
It's possible to get into film and TV production via an apprenticeship in creative and digital media. Search find an apprenticeship to see what's available. Organisations such as the BBC also offer apprenticeships. See, for example, BBC Production Apprenticeships.
Although you don't need a postgraduate qualification, courses containing practical work experience in production may increase your chances of success in a notoriously competitive environment. Be aware that entry to these programmes is competitive and most require some previous experience so that you can give evidence of your practical skills and your work. Search postgraduate courses in media production.
Look for courses that provide cutting-edge technical resources, a reasonable final production budget and contacts within the industry. For information on relevant training courses, see:
A degree or relevant training course alone isn't enough and you'll need to build up substantial experience in the industry before moving into the role of producer.
You'll need to have:
- confidence in your ability
- strong communication and people skills
- editorial judgement
- presentation and pitching skills
- negotiation skills
- strong time and resource management skills
- organisation and planning skills
- creative ability
- the ability to cope well under pressure
- commercial awareness and a good head for figures
- self-motivation and the ability to motivate others
- leadership skills.
You'll also need awareness of health and safety issues in the workplace and understanding of the industry regulations and codes of practice.
As this is a job that requires experience, even first-time producers will have a significant track record in the industry, perhaps as an assistant producer or in research, marketing and scriptwriting. Producers are expected to have several years' experience and a thorough understanding of all programme-making techniques, including directing and editing skills.
Exploit any opportunities to network either during or after your degree as those in the sector will expect it. Look out for work placements with the large broadcasting companies. BBC, Channel 4 and ITV, for example, have formal work experience schemes. Competition for a place on these is fierce, however, so it's worth looking at other options as well.
Consider doing voluntary work at some of the television and film festivals held annually throughout the UK and attend industry networking events and seminars. You can also make your own content or try to get some experience as a runner during or after university.
Targeted speculative applications to some of the smaller film and video companies for work experience or work shadowing opportunities may also be useful. The Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (Pact), for example, has a searchable list of member companies that include UK independent TV, film and digital media companies - see Pact - Find a member.
Any experience that can help you establish and develop industry contacts will be valuable.
Major employers include broadcasters, such as:
- Channel 4
- Channel 5
- S4C (Wales)
Within the film industry you may find employment with:
- independent production companies (known as 'indies')
- production and facilities houses
- community film/video projects
- digital and internet channels (e.g. YouTube).
Look for job vacancies at:
- Freelance Video Collective
- The Call Sheet - subscription required.
- The Stage
- The Unit List
Competition is fierce. Job vacancies are rarely advertised, so developing a network of contacts is essential as many jobs are gained through word of mouth.
Use creative job-hunting methods, such as approaching production and post-production companies speculatively with evidence of your work (e.g. showreel). Be prepared to follow up letters and CVs in person by knocking on doors. Research the industry and individual production companies thoroughly. Keep abreast of current trends.
Try focusing your job search initially on runner positions as this is the area of work where recent graduates are most likely to find a job, although even runners may need to show that they have acquired some experience. Running is a good way to network, to help get a first job or training place.
With considerable experience it may be possible to find work as a film/video production manager - the role of deputy to a film/video producer, organising all the essential support facilities for the team, resolving problems and helping to bring the production in on budget. Experience in this role could potentially lead to employment as a producer.
Prospective employers can browse CVs and call candidates for interview through the use of sites such as:
The majority of training is carried out on the job, although there are numerous short courses and some training schemes available. You'll also need to undertake industry-approved health and safety training.
ScreenSkills is the industry-led skills charity for the screen industries, and provides information on a range of training schemes, some run by themselves and others by third-part training bodies, aimed at helping people working in the screen industries progress their career. They provide an events directory, which lists relevant masterclasses, networking socials, training camps and workshops. Look for Tick Courses - these have been endorsed by ScreenSkills as offering industry-relevant teaching.
Training schemes include the BBC Production Trainee Scheme and the ScreenSkills Trainee Finder for talented individuals with some creative work experience, usually less than a year. Training for independent TV and digital media production companies and freelancers is provided by organisations such as the Indie Training Fund (ITF) (part of ScreenSkills), which offers a range of courses relating to production.
Membership of The Production Guild is useful and provides access to training and seminars, as well as to advice, resources and job information.
Programme makers and producers working in television, film and video tend to work as self-employed freelancers on fixed, often short-term, contracts. You'll typically have substantial relevant experience and will have worked your way up to the role of producer, working as a co-producer, line producer, associate producer or distributor first.
There is no fixed route for promotion for producers and progression depends on opportunities arising on an 'as and when' basis. The common alternative is to progress by creating a studio, or by moving into work as an executive producer, accountable for several projects.
Taking the time to learn about all aspects of the television, film or video industries may help you progress in your career. Volunteering to work on new projects or programmes may also help you gain promotion.